Doing the standard New Year’s Eve thing can get pretty hectic. Navigating crowded streets, unfathomable public transport and parking merry-go-rounds, all to earn the right to stand too close to a sweaty stranger and see the fireworks. If a trip to the CBD isn’t top of your bucket list this New Year’s Eve, here’s some ideas for wilder places to watch the NYE fireworks from afar and perhaps gain a higher perspective on the year to come…
If you’re like me your closet probably features more hydration packs, sleeping bags and odd swim fins than sparkly dresses or ironed shirts. If you’re more comfortable with your feet in the dirt than on the dance floor you might want to plan an entirely different kind of New Year’s celebration and get right out in the bush.
But what if all your mates or family members want a ‘proper’ New Year’s Eve with champagne, fireworks and the big countdown and you (sort of) want to be part of the action? Or what if you just really like fireworks?
Finding the perfect balance between groundedness and glitz ‘n’ glitter might just be possible. We’ve pulled together this list of places where you can watch the city fireworks from a distance, surrounded by the still of the bush and the smell of fresh air, rather than a nauseating pop soundtrack and the body odour of a thousand city dwellers.
North Head, Manly
North Head in Manly forms one half of the towering natural entrance to Sydney Harbour. It’s also part of the sprawlingly beautiful Sydney Harbour National Park with views across the water to the Sydney CBD in the distance. This means you can view the numerous displays which happen across the harbour all from one vantage point.
It’s no secret that this is great place to watch Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, so you won’t be alone but if you get there early (gates open at 5.30pm) and take a picnic there’s really not a better spot to while away the evening.
North Head is also home to several families of echidnas and an endangered population of long-nosed bandicoots who like to come out at dusk to dig for insects. With any luck they might join you for the show.
There is a designated firework watching area but there are also several other lookouts dotted around North Head with good views over the city, which might offer more privacy if you stake your claim early.
North Head is an alcohol free zone on New Year’s Eve. For a BYO option closer to the city that’s still in the National Park, try Nielsen Park.
Mount Coot-tha lookout is the highest spot in the city and probably has the best and closest bird’s eye view of the fireworks. This spot can get busy as the lookout is home to a cafe and restaurant which have their own NYE celebrations going on.
However, all but two of the picnic areas in Mount Cootha Forest are open all night on New Year’s Eve so why not set yourself up early for a picnic dinner and then take an evening stroll along the walking trails to the lookout later on? You might even get a sneaky private peek of the NYE fireworks between the trees if you find the right spot. Don’t forget your headtorch!
Mount Gravatt Lookout
Mount Gravatt is further from the CBD and also has great views over the city. There are plenty of nearby walking/biking trails to enjoy earlier in the day and picnic areas to relax in before the fireworks get started. The lookout can be accessed by car or by hiking through the bush from the Griffith University Campus or along the trails of Toohey Mountain Reserve.
Although you can drive to the top of Mount Dandenong, if you can organise a car shuttle to get you back down in the dark, walking the trail which leads up the side of the mountain to the summit is a much more peaceful and adventurous way to enjoy the journey. There are also plenty of places to stop and rest with views of the city framed by trees on the way up, meaning you might find a spot to watch the NYE fireworks with just you and your buddies.
A little further afield, Arthur’s Seat on the Mornington Peninsula has a view of the whole of Port Phillip Bay from hundreds of metres above sea level, meaning you can see all the NYE fireworks displays for miles around, including major ones in Melbourne and Geelong.
The hike up Mount Taylor winds through pristine bushland and opens out on a grassy area, perfect to throw down a picnic blanket, pop the champagne and while away the evening alongside the red kangaroos who often feed up top near sundown. From here you’ll have vast, sweeping views of the city on the plain below so you’ll be sure to catch all the firework action.
Whilst Mount Ainslie might seem like the obvious place to view Canberra’s fireworks from the bush, getting to the top of Mt Majura is a hike in or bike in job and therefore a more adventurous and likely more peaceful option. The views are spectacular and, although it’s further from the CBD than Mt Ainslie, you’ll still be able to see plenty of the action below.
The Wellington Park is open all day and night year-round and has no entry fees. You can drive all the way to the summit of kunanyi/Mount Wellington on a sealed road or check with the Tasmanian Travel and Information Centre for info on shuttle buses.
However, there’s more than one way to climb a mountain; in this case there are at least three, when you add in the cycling and bushwalking trails (and maybe four if you include skipping gaily in fancy dress). However, it’s a challenging 14.2km hike from the city to the summit with an elevation of about 1200m so you’ll want to set off early and organise a lift or a car drop and designated driver for the way back down.
The payoff is that (if it’s not cloudy up top) you’ll get to enjoy great views of the Derwent, the NYE fireworks and maybe even a glimpse of the boats which are still in residence from the Sydney to Hobart race.
Mt Nelson Lookout
If the view of kunanyi/Mt Wellington is clouded over then Mt Nelson is statistically more likely to be clear. It’s just a ten minute drive south of Hobart and has free parking and toilets. Up top you’ll find a picnic area and a lookout alongside the old signal station with panoramic views of the city.
Both Mt Nelson and kunanyi/Mt Wellington can get super cold up top, even in the middle of summer so bring all the cosy things and a flask full of pre-prepared campfire cocktail!
Zig Zag Road
This historic railway track up Gooseberry Hill on the Darling Scarp has a primo Perth view, perfect for viewing the city fireworks from afar. It’s been converted into a 3km road which you can drive from top to bottom or walk along There are also several side trails to check out and maybe find a secluded off-road viewing spot.
Much of the former railway has also been made into a walking and cycling trail – the Kalamunda Railway Heritage Trail – so there’s plenty to explore before parking up on the side of the road to view the various NYE fireworks displays happening all across the city.
More midnight magic…